3

The Future of Navy Undersea Weapons: Important Issues

The consensus of the committee is that more effort will have to be devoted to future undersea warfare operational concepts and to operations and systems analysis of the enabling technologies to validate their utility and fully understand their implications. This effort should involve a broad spectrum of Navy, academic, and industrial expertise and should lead to the criteria for and the architecture of the future major weapons development programs. In this chapter, the committee lays out what it believes are the most important issues surrounding the future of Navy undersea weapons.

UNDERSEA WARFARE AS A CONTEXT FOR ASSESSINGTHE UNDERSEA WEAPONS SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY PROGRAM

An assessment of the Navy's science and technology (S&T) program for the development of undersea weapons, much like any other assessment, cannot be conducted meaningfully without a proper context within which to frame judgments. Weapons are ultimately developed to fit within military operations designed to control enemy behavior in time of war, and the Navy chose this larger context, undersea warfare operation, as the basis for developing its current undersea weapons capability.

The collapse of the Soviet Union fundamentally changed the nature of undersea warfare. During the Cold War the challenge was posed exclusively by torpedoes fired from relatively large nuclear submarines operating in the vast expanses of the worlds' oceans; in the future the primary undersea threat is more likely to come from smaller diesel boats operating in the constrained waters of the world's littorals and will include weapons fired from a variety of surface, air, and land platforms. In addition to this undersea weapons threat, the Navy will have to contend, on the one hand, with the minefields most enemy nations could easily deploy in defense of their territorial waters and, on the other, with the diminished tolerance Americans seem to have developed for nearly any loss of human life in defense of security interests other than national survival.

Secure in the belief that, at least for the immediate future, no numerically sizable naval threat is likely to materialize and guided in part by the momentum of programs conceived during the Cold War, the Navy has not yet articulated a concept of undersea naval operations that would recognize this new



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An Assessment of Undersea Weapons Science and Technology 3 The Future of Navy Undersea Weapons: Important Issues The consensus of the committee is that more effort will have to be devoted to future undersea warfare operational concepts and to operations and systems analysis of the enabling technologies to validate their utility and fully understand their implications. This effort should involve a broad spectrum of Navy, academic, and industrial expertise and should lead to the criteria for and the architecture of the future major weapons development programs. In this chapter, the committee lays out what it believes are the most important issues surrounding the future of Navy undersea weapons. UNDERSEA WARFARE AS A CONTEXT FOR ASSESSINGTHE UNDERSEA WEAPONS SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY PROGRAM An assessment of the Navy's science and technology (S&T) program for the development of undersea weapons, much like any other assessment, cannot be conducted meaningfully without a proper context within which to frame judgments. Weapons are ultimately developed to fit within military operations designed to control enemy behavior in time of war, and the Navy chose this larger context, undersea warfare operation, as the basis for developing its current undersea weapons capability. The collapse of the Soviet Union fundamentally changed the nature of undersea warfare. During the Cold War the challenge was posed exclusively by torpedoes fired from relatively large nuclear submarines operating in the vast expanses of the worlds' oceans; in the future the primary undersea threat is more likely to come from smaller diesel boats operating in the constrained waters of the world's littorals and will include weapons fired from a variety of surface, air, and land platforms. In addition to this undersea weapons threat, the Navy will have to contend, on the one hand, with the minefields most enemy nations could easily deploy in defense of their territorial waters and, on the other, with the diminished tolerance Americans seem to have developed for nearly any loss of human life in defense of security interests other than national survival. Secure in the belief that, at least for the immediate future, no numerically sizable naval threat is likely to materialize and guided in part by the momentum of programs conceived during the Cold War, the Navy has not yet articulated a concept of undersea naval operations that would recognize this new

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An Assessment of Undersea Weapons Science and Technology paradigm. By default, the Navy expects to fight the new enemy in much the same way it intended to fight the old one and is therefore striving to adapt its old systems to the new circumstances. Thus, submarines, surface ships, and air systems are being modified to detect and localize the enemy diesel submarine in littoral environments and to destroy it with the help of conventional torpedoes. Air superiority is expected to eliminate the torpedo threat posed by enemy surface, air, and land platforms, and mine countermeasure systems currently under development are expected to forge a clear passage ahead of U.S. forces. Absent effective guidance from the Navy leadership on likely changes in the nature of undersea warfare, the S&T community will continue to move in the direction dictated by institutional preservation and inertia and will therefore probably try to improve existing weapon systems beyond the point of diminishing returns. Analyses conducted over the last decade have repeatedly shown that incremental improvements in endgame antisubmarine warfare (ASW) systems will not yield adequate results unless current overall capabilities are significantly improved. To make a difference for future undersea warfare needs, endgame improvements must therefore be coupled with corresponding improvements in front-end systems. In particular, torpedo improvement programs must be pursued in conjunction with programs to improve detection and localization as part of an overall systematic endeavor to improve the nation's undersea warfare capabilities. Unfortunately, detecting and localizing small, quiet submarines operating near the ocean boundaries at near-zero speeds with conventional sonars developed to operate in the open ocean against large nuclear submarines is technically enormously difficult. Current efforts to significantly improve front-end capabilities by incremental changes to extant systems show little promise, and alternative methods better adapted to the specific circumstances of the new threat mode are not being seriously pursued. Under the circumstances, spending money and time to improve the current generation of weapons systems is of questionable benefit. THE IMPERATIVE FOR NEW WEAPON CONCEPTS The committee believes that there is a real penalty in pursuing the current evolutionary course of weapons upgrades instead of pursuing new concepts. The first line of argument in favor of new weapon concepts starts from the recorded performance of the current torpedoes. As indicated in recent war plan analyses, a large number of torpedoes would have to be fired to destroy an enemy submarine. The committee has not been provided with convincing evidence that the improvements being pursued under the program of record would significantly change this picture, so the required number of torpedoes is likely to remain high. Such a number could not be long sustained by the current U.S. inventory, however, if the Navy does not contemplate buying any more torpedoes. New weapon concepts must therefore be developed to get the Navy out of this dangerous predicament. The second line of argument in favor of new weapon concepts starts with programmatics. The Navy's curtailing of torpedo acquisition could lead to a dangerous shortage of torpedoes for existing U.S. platforms and an equally dangerous loss of realistic training with torpedoes. In any case, the need for further acquisition will soon become apparent, at which time the Navy will have to consider buying additional torpedoes to maintain the inventory. Unless it has by that time developed alternative technologies for the current weapons, it will have to acquire a weapons system that would by then be obsolete. Furthermore, the nation's industrial expertise in torpedo manufacturing has atrophied and may be nonexistent when called upon. The final line of argument has to do with the community of scientists and technologists working in

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An Assessment of Undersea Weapons Science and Technology undersea weapons. Absent a vigorous research program focused on developing new weapons, the community of experts will soon vanish; a program limited to product improvement is not likely to convince talented people (in either government or industry) that the Navy is serious about long-range funding for this kind of research. THE PLANNING PROCESS Operations and systems analysis disciplines have been expressly created to provide decision makers with an explicit statement of the critical factors that drive each decision and to allow an informed discussion about the effects of various assumptions on the decision. Whether the decision concerns a choice between systems or a choice of strategic direction, operations and systems analysis invariably helps the decision maker justify and defend his or her decision on the basis of clearly articulated reasoning and convincingly illustrated outcomes. Most important, however, the use of operations and systems analysis in support of decision making can effectively limit the influence of politically driven opinion. Yet the Navy has now effectively replaced operations and systems analysis as the basis for making investment decisions with an integrated product team-based consensus-building process. The lack of analysis has obscured the consequences that flow from the narrowly evolutionary character of the Navy's program of record. Indeed, the consequences of placing very expensive submarines in the constrained waters of many littoral environments and of asking them to fight at a disadvantage against enemy submarines would quickly become apparent to the Navy as it analytically deduced the implications of this mode of operation. Finally, the committee found that, influenced by a world where operations and systems analysis has no real currency, the S&T community is developing treatments for what appears to ail U.S. torpedoes without having first used analysis to diagnose the cause of the illness. Such an approach to product improvement will not lead to undersea weapons that are effective in likely future operational scenarios. Given all these consequences of the Navy's having eliminated operations and systems analysis as part of the basis for decision making, the committee is not persuaded that the program of record will provide adequate undersea capability in the short term or that the direction in which the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations is pushing undersea weapons S&T will provide that capability in the long term. OPERATIONS AND SYSTEMS ANALYSIS IN SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY PLANNING To better align Office of Naval Research progress with the likely future, an integrating process is needed. This process would project the probable threat, devise various scenarios, and develop corresponding concepts of operations (CONOPS). For a realistic evaluation of the alternatives, it would require operations and systems analysis of options and technological possibilities. It would also require people skilled in analysis methodology and knowledgeable about system operations, enabling technology, and the use of key modeling tools. The Navy has a long history of evaluating its undersea warfare systems using mathematical tools. During World War II, the Navy Operations Evaluation Group (OEG) and the ASW Operations Research Group were formed to analyze ASW operations.1 OEG assessments were turned into search-and- 1   Meigs, Montgomery. 1992. Slide Rules and Submarines, National Defense University Press, Washington, D.C.

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An Assessment of Undersea Weapons Science and Technology engagement procedures and tactics ranging from aircraft search to screening and attack. During the early stages of the Cold War, this effort continued at a slower pace until it was reinvigorated in the mid-1960s with the establishment of the Manager ASW System Project Office, PM-4. The mission of this office was, among other things, to assess the existing and projected threat and ASW systems and to use that information to improve current fleet performance and to guide acquisition decisions. The effort continued under the sponsorship of the Chief of Naval Operations through the 1980s and culminated in the promulgation of ASW Top Level Warfare Requirements (ASW TLWR). ASW TLWR rooted systems requirements in real-world fleet performance and doctrine and based them on analyses of CONOPS that ran the gamut from short-term, limited war through full-scale, escalating war, including a strategic/theater ASW campaign, sea lines of communication protection, and combined carrier/battle group operations. These tools permitted evaluating the marginal impact of systems, system upgrades, tactics, strategy, and changes in threat. The Navy's ability to conduct such analyses has been largely lost in the post-Cold War era, but the need for it has not diminished. Studies by the National Research Council and other review groups have repeatedly pointed out the need for these tools and their associated CONOPS.2 Systems analyses and CONOPS should guide decisions on the allocation of Navy S&T resources. Analysts should support the integrated product team oversight groups so that investment in S&T serves the most important needs. The emerging integrated warfare architecture process should also be supported by good (and agreed-to) models. However, good analysis entails much more than good models. It must involve military and technical experts in a process that ensures realistic estimates of performance in realistic tactical settings. The process needs independent validation and high-level (indeed all-level) support and must allow advocates and sponsors, assessors, modelers, and operators to interact so that they can extract the very best of every idea where the needs are well known and at least somewhat agreed to. There must be a mechanism for airing politically incorrect analysis. These CONOPS and the supporting analysis should be guided by operational force plans and procedures. The analysis should permit evaluation of a range of scenarios, threat estimates, and levels of allied participation, as well as of tactics, doctrine, rules of engagement, system performance, and so on. These can easily be bounded to enhance cogent decision making. Right now, littoral warfare is a nebulous concept that leads to equally nebulous rationales for force and system planning. The committee believes that more definitive planning is essential and that such planning must be supported by high-quality operations and systems analysis. LEAD TIME FOR NEW TORPEDOES In 1995 the Department of Defense, in concert with the Navy, made the decision to phase out torpedo production, saying that there was no foreseen need and that the industrial base could be reconstituted quickly. In terms of programming, that decision is 10 years old. Development of a completely new torpedo is at the least a 15-year process (probably more like 20 years, given the defunct status of the 2   Naval Studies Board, National Research Council. 1997. Technology for the United States Navy and Marine Corps, 2000-2035, Vols. 5 and 7, National Academy Press, Washington, D.C.; Naval Studies Board, National Research Council. 1993-1994. Mine Countermeasures Technology, Vols. 1-4, National Academy Press, Washington, D.C.; Naval Research Advisory Committee. To be published. Report of the Unmanned Vehicles (UV) in Mine Countermeasures, draft, Arlington, Va.

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An Assessment of Undersea Weapons Science and Technology industrial base for making new torpedoes and the Navy acquisition bureaucracy; see Box 1.1).3 If the Navy is to begin gearing up for new torpedo development, or more appropriately, for undersea weapons development, it should be starting a major technology assessment and development effort within the present Future Year Defense Program. There are no signs, however, that such an effort is forthcoming. The country could lose its long-held competence in torpedoes. This state of affairs is the result of several factors: The absence of new torpedo development programs; A reduction in inventories; Minimal or inadequate fleet firings and in-service tests; Proliferation of offshore torpedo technologies, including countermeasures, that are approaching par with existing U.S. technologies; Export prohibitions that preclude U.S. industries from competing for international business; and Inadequate investment in S&T against future need. Industry, which was such a strong player in the past, no longer has an incentive to maintain its competence or infrastructure or to invest in its own research and development (R&D). Funds for 6.4, once robust, are no longer available to stimulate and advance technology. Perishable human expertise and know-how in this unique weapons field are rapidly disappearing. Additionally, the prospect of being unable to compete in the international arms market because of draconian export constraints is a disincentive for industry. Industry is further removed as a participant since most Navy S&T funds are spent in-house. Inventory reductions are leading to a “platinum bullet” syndrome: the belief that torpedoes are too rare and precious to waste on low-confidence targets, which will as a result linger as clutter in the battle space unless classified and eliminated. Torpedo firings during fleet exercises are dangerously low (<2 percent of inventory), and the inventory is not being adequately tested or cycled. The need to thoroughly test torpedoes is well established: inadequate testing of torpedoes before World War II resulted in weapons that failed in combat, with catastrophic consequences. The committee is concerned that history may repeat itself. The end of the Cold War has unfettered European Community and former Soviet bloc arms manufacturers. They are now offering torpedoes, countermeasures, and undersea warfare systems to any buyer. These technologies (at least on paper) appear comparable to or better than anything the United States could now offer. At the present rate of S&T investment (the only source of undersea weapons upgrades), U.S. systems will fall behind. The prospect of this situation makes S &T investment more urgent than ever. Funding for Navy S&T is all that maintains U.S. competence in undersea weapons, and it is inadequate. REVITALIZING UNDERSEA WEAPONS DEVELOPMENT The Navy should reevaluate the general direction of its current undersea weapons program and provide adequate funding for the resulting new program. As a starting point for this reevaluation, the 3   The MK-54 hybrid torpedo is now in low rate initial production and is scheduled to start production in FY02, about 7 years from its program start in FY95. It is not, however, a completely new torpedo. Most of its components come from the MK-50, MK-46, and MK-68 systems.

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An Assessment of Undersea Weapons Science and Technology Navy should resurrect the operations and systems analysis capability it once used to guide decision making and use it again to determine which concepts of operation would be most cost-effective within the context of the likely future warfighting scenarios. The concepts of operation that emerge from such analysis should then serve as a foundation for additional analytic work aimed at deciding which technology would best serve the Navy's undersea weapons development. The Navy should reconsider its position and reassess its risks against the likely level of undersea threat to its surface forces. As is done in other areas, the risk should be taken, roughly, as the product of the probability of failure and the consequence of a loss. This reassessment will not be easy and will require the intervention of highly placed military leaders; the “hammer” such leaders could wield could do much to change the current laissez-faire attitude about the undersea threat. The recent impetus the submarine sonar program received from ADM Bruce DeMars, USN (now retired), and the highly successful ARCI program that resulted from that intervention (discussed in Chapter 2 under “Weapons Design Optimization” and in Appendix B), is an excellent case in point. Next, the Navy should take advantage of the heightened concern about the undersea threat that would come from such a push and try to provide adequate funding. The funds should not only support the enlarged research program that would emerge from the concept studies mentioned above but would also have to underwrite the beginning of a future acquisition program. As has already been explained, an acquisition program is long overdue. First, since it has taken 15 to 20 years to develop a completely new generation of torpedoes, there may not be much time to update U.S. undersea warfare capability. Second, the Navy should quickly revive the incentives for industrial investment in R&D, which can be brought about only by an acquisition program. And finally, the Navy should provide the exciting research activity that can attract young scientific and technological talent, without which the nation will not be able to maintain a credible undersea warfare capability into the next century. No other organization will do these things for the Navy.